No-one is a bigger fan of actor Thomas Cassidy than Libby. No-one. That’s why she’s totally going to marry him.
She is going to write a novel, name the main character after Thom, and find a way to get it to him. Intrigued and flattered, he will read it, fall in love with her prose, write to her and ask to turn it into a movie. She will pretend to think about it for a week or so, then say, sure, but can I work on it with you? Their eyes will meet over the script, and fade to black. It is a fail-proof plan.
Except for the fact that he is a Hollywood star – not A list, perhaps not B list, but certainly C+ – and she is, well, not. Except for the fact that he lives in America. Except, too, for the teeny tiny age gap. Not even twenty years! Totally overcomable. All of the obstacles are totally overcomable. It’s all about determination.
Doesn’t that really look rather good? I don’t know how aware everyone is about the way Unbound operates, so I’m delighted to host a guest post today from the author, Claire Handscombe, telling us more.
When an author is offered a book deal, they’re usually given a lump sum, known as an advance against book sales. What that essentially is, from a publisher’s point of view, is a bet that the book will sell x number of copies, from which the publisher makes y amount of money. And that bet hardly ever pays off: I’ve heard that only around one in five books makes that money back for their publisher.
This kind of maths makes it difficult for publishers to take risks on anything but the books they are convinced will sell. But what if the costs of making a book were covered before the book was published? That’s where Unbound comes in.
Unbound is a relatively new publisher on the UK scene. They were founded in 2011 by John Mitchinson, Justin Pollard, and Dan Kieran, all of whom had been involved in writing and/or publishing in some capacity, in part as a response to the risk-averse nature of publishing.
Essentially, Unbound is a cross between Kickstarter and a traditional publisher. Authors pitch their ideas for non-fiction books or their novels to the platform, and if they’re successful, the book goes up on the site for crowdfunding. And that’s when the real work starts: if you thought writing a book was hard, wait till you find yourself sending a message to everyone you’ve ever met, trying to sound jovial and enthusiastic while also hoping they don’t hate you for the spam. Three months in, I’m at 80%, and I’m exhausted.
The main reward everyone who helps fund a book gets is their name printed in the back, which is pretty cool. Fun fact, relayed to me by John Mitchinson when I interviewed him on my podcast: Jane Austen help fund the publication of a Frances Burney novel, and that, in fact, was the only place were her name was printed during her lifetime.
Just like on Kickstarter and similar platforms, though, there are other rewards you can get: when you pledge to my novel, Unscripted, you can get personalised book or podcast recommendations, mugs, tshirts, tote bags, the chance to be a guest on the Brit Lit Podcast, a beta read of your own novel, and more. The reader gets value for money and the glow of being a good literary citizen, and the writer gets the satisfaction and excitement of – at last! – publication.
The goal is that a book will be fully funded within three months, though most books seem to take longer, sometimes much longer. Once the funding reaches 100%, the book enters something like a traditional publishing period: several rounds of editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design. And then, it depends.
There are actually two Unbound models. There’s the hardback model, which is the original Unbound model, where you need to raise about £10,000, but where your book will be more or less traditionally published, with all the trappings of that: a projected publication date, a spot in their catalogue months in advance, plugs from their main Twitter account, that kind of thing.
And then there’s the paperback/digital model, which is what I was offered. You have to raise around £5,000, and they’ll make a professional, great-looking book for you, but as to marketing – even as to getting the book into bookshops – you’re on your own. It’s hard and it’s frustrating. I’ll be honest: it’s not what I dreamed of when I dreamed of being published. But at some point in the next couple of years, Unscripted will exist in the world, it will be in the hands of readers, and people will be able to lie on the beach, water lapping at their feet, and enjoy it as they would a traditionally published book. So that’s definitely something.
Claire, thank you – I’ve pledged my support, and very much look forward to reading Unscripted when all your hard work comes to fruition…
About the author
Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA, but actually, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. (Like her main character Libby, she knows a thing or two about celebrity crushes and the life-changing power of a television series.) She was recently longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, and her journalism, poetry, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Bustle, Book Riot, Writers’ Forum, and the Washington Post. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show about news and views from British books and publishing.
Claire’s other book, Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives can be found here.